Microsoft opens US$500m ‘mega’ data centre in Ireland

24 Sep 2009

A new data centre that will be the epicentre of Microsoft’s cloud computing strategy for the next decade opened its doors in Dublin this morning.

The new 303,000 sq-foot facility, based in Dublin, will help meet the continued growth in demand for Microsoft’s Online, Live and Cloud services, such as Bing, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, Windows Live, and the Windows Azure platform.

The US$500m investment in the facility builds on the history of investment that Microsoft has made in Ireland over the past 24 years and is a further sign of its continued commitment to Ireland as a strategic location for many global and EMEA operations.

The investment in the facility is part of Microsoft’s long-term commitment in the region, and is a major step in realising Microsoft’s Software plus Services strategy. It is also the next evolutionary step in Microsoft’s commitment to thoughtfully building its cloud computing capacity and network infrastructure throughout the region to meet the demand.

The data centre has been officially recognised by the European Commission’s Sustainable Energy Europe Campaign as a “best practice” in environmental sustainability design through its innovative design which has made it 50pc more energy efficient than traditional data centres built three years ago. The data centre increases hardware utilisation, reduces the use of resources like water and electricity, and reduces waste material.

The new ‘mega’ data centre has taken about 1 million man-hours to complete and involved a workforce close to 2,100 people at its peak.

Jean-Philippe Courtois, president, Microsoft International, said: “The opening of the data centre is a milestone in our ongoing investment in Europe and provides the critical infrastructure to support the local delivery of our next generation of online services for both businesses and consumers. This facility will play a central role in our promise to deliver computing experiences that seamlessly connect people, data, devices and applications across the digital work style and lifestyle – a vision we call Software plus Services.

“The opening also celebrates Microsoft’s long-term commitment to Ireland. As we approach our 25th anniversary of being part of the local economy, I would like to thank the Irish Government and its agencies, particularly the Investment and Development Agency, IDA Ireland, for their ongoing support and to express Microsoft’s commitment to continue to work closely with government, education and local businesses to help contribute to the local software ecosystem and to help Ireland achieve its goals around building a Smart Economy,” he concluded.

The facility can generate up to 5.4 megawatts of critical power, with the potential to expand to a total of 22.2 megawatts of critical power.

According to Microsoft, Bing supports more than 2 billion queries/month; Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite hosts more than 1 million people on e-mail; and Windows Live ID processes more than 1 billion authentications per day.

According to Microsoft Ireland managing director, Paul Rellis, the new data centre and the range of online services that it will support will help Irish-based organisations in the public and private sector achieve significant efficiency and cost gains. “The opportunity that the cloud represents to cut costs and completely transform how Information Technology is run within organisations is something that could have a significant impact on the overall economic recovery efforts.

“A healthy indigenous business community will be at the heart of our future economic success.  Already we have some of Ireland’s brightest innovators and entrepreneurs who are working with us through the BizSpark programme – engaged and involved with the cloud. I would encourage all organisations of all sizes to look at the potential that this new platform offers and to consider how they might take advantage of it within their own operations.”

Making use of the low ambient air temperatures in Ireland, the facility uses a “free air” cooling almost exclusively. This means the operating environment can be maintained without mechanical or refrigerated cooling systems for more than 95pc of the time. Mechanical cooling typically represents 38pc of the power consumed in traditional data centres.

This cooling system eliminates the necessity for chilled water cooling systems, used in traditional data centres. This saves 18 million litres of water each month.

The facility uses the latest generation IT hardware, designed through tight collaboration with manufacturers to deliver the highest performance, lowest power consumption and least heat generation. These systems are shipped to the data centre preinstalled into server racks, resulting in substantial reductions in transportation and packaging overheads.

“As we all know, Microsoft is a dynamic company, driven by innovation,” Taoiseach, Brian Cowen TD said. “It is exactly the kind of company that we want in Ireland as we seek to renew our economy – and a model of the kind of company that we would like to grow in Ireland for ourselves.

“We envisage a high-value, export-led economy with companies creating the products and services of tomorrow and providing high quality employment for our people.”

Welcoming this investment, Barry O’Leary, CEO, IDA Ireland, commented: “Ireland has been a leading location for ICT investments over the last decade and I am delighted to see a long-standing client like Microsoft, with such a significant global presence, recognise Ireland’s talent, track record and technology in selecting this location.”

He added: “More importantly, it sends a very positive signal to global enterprise that Ireland will be a leading world-wide location in cloud computing.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: Microsoft Ireland general manager Paul Rellis, left, Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD, centre, and the president of Microsoft International Jean-Philippe Courtois.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years